The End of the Combustion Engine? Volvo to Go All-Electric By 2019

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Swedish carmaker Volvo has become the first traditional automotive firm to announce a full shift away from the internal combustion engine, as it today unveils plans for every Volvo car to have an electric engine from 2019.

In a move it described as a “new chapter in automotive history”, the company today promised that from 2019 all Volvo cars will either be fully electric, plug-in hybrid, or a “mild hybrid”, boasting a small petrol engine and a large battery.

“This is about the customer,” Håkan Samuelsson, president and chief executive, said in a statement. “People increasingly demand electrified cars and we want to respond to our customers’ current and future needs.”

The firm, which was bought by Chinese carmaker Geely in 2010, said it would also announce five fully electric new models between 2019 and 2021. Three will be manufactured under the Volvo brand and two under Polestar, the carmaker’s performance car arm.

Last month, Volvo confirmed Polestar would become a separate brand from Volvo, making high end EVs.

Alongside the new fully electric cars, a range of petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid and ‘mild hybrid’ 48 volt options will be available for all models.

“This announcement marks the end of the solely combustion engine-powered car,” Samuelsson added.

Today’s move provides more detail on how the carmaker plans to meet a target it set last year of selling one million electrified cars by 2025.

“When we said it we meant it,” Samuelsson said of the target. “This is how we are going to do it.”

As part of its original goal Volvo also promised to “promote acceptance” of EVs over the coming years by lobbying for more charging infrastructure and educating consumers on the benefits of the technology.

The global market for electric cars remains small, at just under one per cent of total new vehicle sales, but is growing rapidly. Across Europe registrations for new EVs grew 38 per cent in the first quarter of 2017, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, and now command 3.2 per cent of the European market. Meanwhile, the US saw a 49 per cent jump in EV sales in the first quarter of 2017, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

While Volvo is the first carmaker to announce plans to fully shift production away from pure combustion engine cars, many other major carmakers are pivoting their business models to focus more on the electric market. Jaguar, Audi, Aston Martin and Mercedes have all announced plans to launch new EV models in recent weeks, while Tesla has emerged as a global brand thanks to its focus on 100 per cent electric vehicles and clean energy.

Meanwhile, earlier this week Japanese carmaker Honda and Hitachi Automotive Systems announced plans to establish a new joint company focused on electric cars.

The company, backed with around five billion yen (£34m) of investment, will produce its own cars and sell electric vehicle parts to other carmakers.

Hitachi will have a controlling stake of 51 per cent of the new firm and Honda will have a 49 per cent share.